Top marketing tips for manufacturers with Nutcracker CEO Jenny Knighting
Our CEO Jenny Knighting understands the marketing pitfalls and key strategies manufacturers must adopt to survive and thrive. With seven years’ experience as Sales and Marketing Director for leading LED dimming manufacturer Zano Controls, she knows a thing or two about marketing in this increasingly competitive landscape.
We spoke to Jenny about how manufacturers can transform their marketing to build their brand profile, connect with their target audience and elevate their sales.
So Jenny - why are you personally passionate about manufacturing?
I really admire anybody who wants to bring a product to market. Whoever you are targeting (plumbers, technical decision-makers, farmers or consumers etc), I get really excited by someone’s passion, by them having the bravery to think “This product solves a problem or a need and I want to bring this product to market”, and then do all the time-consuming development that's involved in that to make it happen.
I’m also really passionate about UK manufacturing. We've got some phenomenally interesting UK manufacturers and we export some amazing products. I think it’s an unsung industry.
What are the biggest challenges manufacturers face every day?
I think the challenge with manufacturing is that the product is king. Without a product, manufacturers have nothing to sell and more often than not, the manufacturing process of that product is complicated: you've got a supply chain, logistics, research and development, and all the challenges involved with those.
There are so many things that can put a spanner in the works. You can think that your product is where it needs to be and then all of a sudden one of your components could change or there could be a quality control problem at the factory, or the product it’s paired with becomes incompatible.
Why do some manufacturers struggle to market their business effectively?
It’s not that manufacturers don't care about marketing; it’s so easy for manufacturers to be sucked into the actual production / R&D side of the business, which often takes priority.
We’ve come into contact with hundreds of manufacturers, and it’s clear how few of them understand the different types of talent they need on a marketing team to make a difference to their business. Often just one person is put in charge of marketing, and that’s where the problem comes – there's not enough credit or understanding given to exactly what’s involved. It is rare for one person to be able to be strategic, an excellent copywriter, good at execution, developing images to stand out and able to build online communities.
How consumers engage with products has changed so much, particularly in terms of social media or just different forms of digital marketing, as well as traditional marketing. A significant percentage of manufacturers don't truly understand that change and how it can affect marketing plans and what marketing can achieve for their business.
There can be an inherent lack of understanding of how to market across multiple channels and why it’s important to market to your end-user customer even if you've got a supply chain in the middle.
Why might digital marketing benefit manufacturers today?
Traditionally a manufacturer would produce their catalogue, and salespeople would visit their customer base and send sales letters. Now, the vast majority of decision-makers will have checked a business out, looked at their online credentials and made a decision before they've even spoken to a sales rep.
That’s why often the business that has the largest market share is quite simply the business with the largest marketing presence both online and offline: they are the ones that really understand how to sell in their products, their customer pain points and why they need the product.
Manufacturers should be reaching their customer base from lots of different angles, whether that's through online articles, email marketing, newsletters, technical videos, PR, LinkedIn messaging and so on. If they aren’t doing it, they should know that their competitors are. Manufacturers need to look at their customer base, take a step back and think - how do we reach them more effectively?
Can you give an example of what good marketing can do for a manufacturer?
Zano is really bold and willing to take risks. At a live event – to demonstrate their unique dimmer product – the company built giant dimmers that actually worked. It was phenomenally creative, eye-catching and interesting.
But Zano also understands the importance of omnichannel marketing. Alongside more traditional outreach in their marketing mix, they are branching out and continually trying new marketing avenues. Their focus on joining up social media with their wider marketing outreach has generated new customers and market share through building social media and online communities.
So I think with that particular manufacturer, they've got a big vision and to achieve that they need to market in a ‘big vision’ way. They are open to the idea of trying things and amplifying it if works and learning from it if it doesn’t.
How will manufacturers benefit from working with a marketing agency specifically?
With Nutcracker, you are getting the benefits of a really expensive marketing department at an affordable price: a trained journalist, a senior designer, experienced marketing directors, people who can execute strategies to an exceptional standard – that level of experience that you couldn't normally afford to buy in.
By having an agency that really understands manufacturing, you're getting access to skills to support your existing team but also to start bringing in new initiatives that are going to open up your customer base, attract new customers and elevate your sales.
Any last takeaways for manufacturers?
It’s difficult to analyse your marketing when you are knee-deep in day-to-day tasks. But if you are responsible for driving your businesses' sales figures, the best thing you can do is look at your business as if you are an outsider.
Don't just scan over the collateral, the website and the outreach. Look at it objectively and think “Is this saying what it needs to say? Is this reaching the people it needs to reach?”
When people do that, they realise that it’s not a great surprise that they are not hitting their sales figures or they are not attracting the customer base they wanted or it’s not going in the direction they want. Their marketing collateral often isn't good enough or their marketing strategy isn't.
So it’s worth taking that time out to ask: could my marketing be better?